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Sierra magazine
The Sizzling Sex Appeal of . . . Coal

Madison Avenue's challenge: Make Americans feel good about something that's responsible for a third of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and is often obtained by blowing the tops off beautiful mountains. Its answer: "clean coal," a concept about as real as scantily clad models toiling in coal mines. This image is from General Electric's "Ecomagination" ad campaign.


This plug-in lump is the logo of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, none of whose members produce clean coal electricity. The group advertised heavily in key states during the 2008 elections, sponsoring all the presidential and vice presidential debates. Its PR firm later boasted, "President-elect Obama and Senator McCain . . . adopted our language and included it as part of their stump speeches."


By the 1990s, the public knew that smoking causes people to die ugly, hacking deaths. The
ad folks responded by trying to brand cigarettes as "cool"--hence the sunglasses on Joe Camel. Peabody Energy adopted the same approach, even down to the shades, for its own lethal product. --Paul Rauber

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